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CloudCatcher 2019 – Affinity Group Ritual – Day 3

At CloudCatcher WitchCamp we almost always have an affinity group ritual. This is an opportunity for these small groups to turn inward to each other, drop deep into the arc of ritual-work in the cauldron of the Story and Theme of the Camp and open to the magic of the moment, of desire, of need. Affinity groups are an essential ingredient in Reclaiming WitchCamps. I have had okay, wonderful, and not-so-great experiences in affinity groups as a camper at Reclaiming WitchCamps. Most of the time we end up in affinity groups “by the hand of the Goddess or Fate Herself”. We pick tokens or found objects and then we are sorted… though sorting hats aren’t usually around. Affinity groups usually consist of 4-7 people.

I did not randomly or by fate choose a token and then get sorted… I chose to enter the pre-determined Person of Colour affinity group. At CloudCatcher and several other Reclaiming Camps affinity groups are also organised around axes of oppression and experiences of social and political marginalisation. Reclaiming is intrinsically a politically-engaged tradition and feedback in the community of late in various countries has clearly communicated a need for these kinds of solidarity groups. As well as this, choosing to go into the PoC affinity group as a self-identified PoC is entirely optional.

We are collectively exhausted. WitchCamp is called a magical intensive quite specifically… it is thorough, “full on”, and well – often, intense.

One of our group excuses themself so they can get the rest they sorely need. Another does not feel completely safe and feels a spirit that has been pushing against their edges all day might invade their space if we do not ward ourselves, so I offer to cast a Circle of warding, containment, and strength.

I take my wand from Inanna’s altar in the East and I move with the arc of the sun below the equator: beginning in the south where the sun can not be seen, through to the dawning east, to the high tide of day in the north, to the twilight dusk in the west, back to the midnight south, arcing above, swooping below…

“By the centre which is the circumference…” These are words I often use to seal the Circle-casting ritual in Reclaiming and Feri practice. They are a meditation to me, they have deep meaning, and I open to the mystery between the words, and evoked by the words.

And then we simply sing. We sing, and sing, and sing.

We sing a song Riyana taught us at ritual conspiracy. It was woven by Jennifer Byers, Pavini Moray, and their path at Free Cascadia WitchCamp:

Deep, dark velvet, Earth my lover
Open my mind and open my body
Wet and welcoming, sweet surrendering
Starlight and bone, my power from within –

We sing, I am drumming on my bodhran while others sway and rock singing with their eyes closed. A few of us take pastels and colours and form magical sigils on the paper on the ground. Each group has been tasked with this by the teaching team. This too is for the compost. This ritual matters too. This ritual is what we need.

So, we sing. We sing and then we laugh.

CloudCatcher 2018 – Rituals: Affinity Group and Bardic – Day 3

Affinity Group Ritual
Today’s ritual is different – today we will create a ritual in the afternoon with our affinity groups, for tonight is the Bardic Ritual. Affinity groups are small groups created at the beginning of camp to not only help people get to know one another better, but also to help them work through anything that might be coming up for them at camp, especially in their path workings. Since we’ve been meeting every day for discussions and have been doing a few chores together as a team, we’ve already grown close – something easy to do in the container created by camp and the first evening’s ritual. Today we’ll be growing closer still as we work our own magic with each other, and with the energies most often associated with Hermes.

As with other rituals, the entire camp has an intention that we’ll be working with, although the exact words of the intention escape me, the magic having run its course. As an affinity group, we begin by agreeing what we want to do for our ritual – how we want to connect, what we want to offer the land, and what energies we want to work with in the process. While we’re planning, we all agree the trickster energy of Hermes has already started working with us, and we agree to continue working with that energy to offer our laughter to the land.

When the ritual begins and we call on the energies we’ll be working with, and the laughter comes in full force almost immediately. Writing about the belly-laughs and and snorts can’t do justice to the offering we gave, but at one point in the ritual I got to pause and reflect on how magical it is to be able to celebrate the holiness of laughter, how sweet it is to be able to connect with others who also know that laughter too can be sacred. It is for this sweet connection that I come to WitchCamp regularly, and our affinity group ritual was no exception.

Bardic Ritual
The Bardic Ritual is and is not a ritual, per se. It is not a ritual in that many of us are seated; it is not a ritual in that there is a stage and lights; it is not a ritual in that there are no specific energies called into the space. And yet, it is a ritual in that it happens every year at camp; it is a ritual in that people gather and raise energy together; it is a ritual in that lives are transformed together. During the Bardic Ritual all of the amazingly talented people at camp share their gifts, skills, and crafts with others. The entertainment is full tilt with emcees introducing each of the amazing acts. There are poetry recitations – one to the planet(oid) Pluto, for wreaking havoc on the solar system, and one an ode to air, for all the ways it kisses us. There’s a monologue of a camper explaining his experiences to his mother on the other side of the planet (misunderstandings can be hilarious!), and there’s a luscious dance, with the audience of witches providing the wholly improvised music. And there are songs and tunes, too. One piece is played on the ukulele immediately transports me to ancient Greece, and another brings me to tears, as a trio sing their offering to their gods. At the end of the evening I find myself marveling at the amazing group of people assembled here and the beautiful art they create and I do a little spell that the rest of the world may experience the same joy as I have.

CloudCatcher 2018 – Day 2 – Evening Ritual

This evening’s ritual has a different feel – our intention tonight is to listen to the land, and even as people are still speaking, it’s in more hushed tones, and I can already hear the faint pulse of the land. Even the energetic container is created with fewer words – our circle having been cast by someone embodying a snake, some elements welcomed with tightly woven, impactful words, and others welcomed with nothing but the sounds speaking to our hearts. And then the energies of the Bee Maidens, the Melissae, are brought into the space. Although they’re invoked with words, and a spoonful of honey, the beings themselves are sweetly silent – communicating only with graceful motion and warm expressions.

They begin to dance with a delightful droning – the Melissae, the Celebrants, the Elements – all of us our dancing together. We are dancing our ears open; as we sing our hall sacred, and move our bodies, we are preparing our ears to listen to the land. When everyone’s senses are ready, when everyone is attuned to the land, like a bee foraging for flowers, they fly out of the cave to explore the freshly rain-washed land that is holding us as home. A very small number stay in the cave with the Melissae – we are there to hold space, nay, to prepare the space. We are there to support or create the perfect container, ther pefect honeycomb, for the honey-spell that we are community-weaving tonight.

The land has said what needs to be said this night, and the drums begin to play, like the quiet hum of a hive, calling the bees to return with their lessons. And return with deep lessons they did. They returned in swarms, and soon the hall was abuzz with with a soft sound, a subtle sound of all the lessons of the land. To this sound the bees and the Bee Maidens danced. We danced and we sang and we wove our wing-fanned honey spell, that all the world may taste the sweet sounds of all the lands.